$1B in state cuts hit school buses | TheUnion.com

$1B in state cuts hit school buses

Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer

Nevada County schools face slashed transportation budgets with Gov. Jerry Brown’s announced $1 billion midyear cuts, but districts hope to stave off the full effects until the next school year, administrators said.

State cuts to schools and social services were triggered Tuesday, as California faces revenues that are nearly $2.2 billion below the $88.4 billion lawmakers had hoped for when they passed the state budget last summer.

Although the cuts were below earlier estimates that could have reduced the school year by up to seven days, the slashes stand to hurt students who rely on buses to get to school.

Nevada County schools expect to lose $1.3 million or 51 percent of the total student bus funding, said Donna Fitting, associate of business services for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.

Fitting described the impending cuts as “inequitable,” that will not only disproportionately affect rural districts compared to urban schools, but are also uneven among comparably sized schools in the area.

For instance, Union Hill School district will lose approximately $8,000 for its nearly 800 students, but Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs Union school districts will lose nearly $77,000 for their combined enrollment of about 700 students.

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Fitting blamed an old formula based on point-in time funding figures for such disparities.

When planning for this year’s budget development, many Nevada County district administrators said they built up reserves in anticipation of these “trigger” cuts.

Nevada Union Joint High School, which expects to lose close to $450,000 in transportation funding, will draw from its general fund to maintain bus services for the remainder of this school year, said the Assistant Superintendent Karen Suenram.

“We have been able to build up reserves anticipating these situations,” Suenram said. “We want to get kids safely to school and it’s better for our environment for us to haul them on buses versus parents hauling them. It’s just better all around.”

Pleasant Ridge Union School District also anticipated the cuts and planned accordingly, said Superintendent Britta Skavdahl.

“Hence, all current staff, as well as all student programs, will remain in place through the end of the current school year,” Skavdahl said in an e-mail to The Union.

As much as they anticipated these cuts, schools are already operating in the red after years of reductions in education funding, Suenram said.

“We’re spending more than we’re taking (in) already,” she said.

The cuts also slash spending on higher education, public libraries, state prisons, MediCal, child care, and in-home support for seniors and the disabled.

With projected $7 billion deficit for next year’s budget, Suenram said Nevada Joint Union will wait and see what Gov. Brown proposes before any transportation alterations are planned.

“We’ll wait and see what (Gov. Brown) says in January,” Suenram said, “at that time we roll up our sleeves and get into our planning on how to proceed on that.”

“We’re more concerned about next year,” said county Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen.

With the majority of this round of budget cuts set to take effect Jan. 1, Gov. Brown took the opportunity Tuesday to warn that more cuts are on the way unless his proposed tax hikes are adopted.

“The majority knew all along that the money would never materialize and that mid-year trigger cuts would be inevitable,” said State Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) in a prepared statement.

“Now, these mid-year cuts have become a political tool to help Democrats pass their tax increase plans … Raising taxes will only hurt our struggling economy and hurt hardworking Californian families.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, e-mail crosacker@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4236.

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